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AP® World History: Major Changes Happening in 2019-2020

⏱️  4 min read

written by

ashley lin

August 3, 2020


HEADS UP! This page was published before College Board's recent changes to AP exams due to Covid-19 response. Read the linked guide to see all of the most up to date information on AP World History Exam 2020 Changes.

Considering taking AP World during the 2019-20 school year, and want to know what’s up? Be warned: there are some BIG (and controversial) changes to AP World, such as its split into two classes/new name to AP World: Modern, and cutting more than 9,000 years of world history from, well, world history.

Nonetheless, some of the core aspects of the test, such as the DBQ and LEQ, will retain its original rubrics… so don’t freak out too much!

Watch: AP World History - 🎥 Introduction to AP World

#1: Historical Time Range

The biggest change is College Board’s decision to begin the AP World History: Modern course in 1200 CE, instead of on all the way back from the Paleolithic Era — effectively removing thousands of years of World History. Initially, the College Board intended to start this course at 1450 CE, but moved the date forward due to criticism from both students and teachers. Many individuals believe starting the course at this time period would be too Europe-centered, and do a disservice to histories such as the Americas before Columbus, Africa before slavery, and China before imperialism. 600 CE to 1450 CE (Period 3 in the 2018-2019 AP World course) provides a unique perspective to students because while Europe was in the dark ages, other parts of the globe were experiencing huge strides in the sciences and arts. Taking this perspective away from students will greatly impact the world history class.

Bonus: both Fiveable’s founder, Amanda DoAmaral, as well as one of the AP World interns, Dylan Black, have been extremely vocal on this topic. Check out their advocacy here!

#2: Restructured Units & Themes

Watch: AP World History - 🎥 What's New in AP World History: Modern?

Themes: There are currently five unifying themes in the AP World course: 1) Interactions Between Humans and the Environment, 2) Development and Interaction of Cultures, 3) State Building, Expansion, and Conflict, 4) Creation, Expansion, and Interaction of Economic Systems, and 5) Development and Transformation of Social Structures. In 2019-2020, the AP World: Modern course will include a sixth theme, technology, and innovation (presumably because industrialization plays such a pivotal role in modern world history).

Units: Unit groupings and their respective time frames are actually preserved for units 4-6 from the 2018-2019 AP World course to the 2019-2020 AP World: Modern course. The only difference is since AP World: Modern starts at 1200 CE, Period 3 is shortened to 250 years (to 1450 CE).

#3: Clearer Learning Objectives & Specific Skills

According to the College Board, the revised course and exam description (CED) will include more skills that AP World students should practice throughout the year, including history disciplinary practices and reasoning skills to help students “think like a historian.” Meanwhile, on the CED, each learning objective is now connected to multiple, specific pieces of content! This is intended to help both AP World students and teachers better prepare for the test by understanding how it will be addressed on the exam. 

#4: AP World: Ancient

Watch: AP World History - Unit 0: Before 1200 CE

In part due to the controversial decision made by College Board to change the starting date of the AP World: Modern course to 1200 CE, College Board is ‘committed to offering a secondary AP class, AP World: Ancient, to intentionally place a larger focus on that time period. That being said, this new course offering is dependant upon a number of variables being met, such as enough high schools expressing interest, and enough postsecondary institutions willing to accept the credit. We’ll be following this closely, and keep you updated!

As all of this sinks in, don’t forget that as part of a change to AP Exams in general, College Board is moving the deadline for AP Exam registration to mid-November! All this means is that you’ll have a few less months to decide if you’re *actually* going to take the AP test, if you want to avoid that $40 extra charge.

Watch: AP World History - 🎥 Overview of the AP World History Exam

Best of luck to all of the new AP World, 2019-2020 students! Yes, it’s a challenging class, but the knowledge you accumulate around world history truly shifts your global perspective for the better. Happy studying, and we’ll see you on our next AP World live stream!

Watch: AP World History - 🎥 How to Make Sense of the AP World CED Changes

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